Couples who met just before or during the pandemic have started trickling into my Melbourne therapy room.
I can spot them quite easily. They’re intense relationships that came together fast and reached levels of commitment a lot quicker than they would have if they’d met under more normal circumstances.
And that’s obviously because the way we socialise changed at the start of the pandemic when the people we could see were governed and restricted.
If you lived on your own, you couldn’t see your family, friends or colleagues, and so naturally finding someone new to share life with and investing everything in them provided a sense of moving forward — even though the rest of life was on pause .
Because of this, some of these couples moved in together really quickly — like a few weeks after meeting.
As the pandemic raged on around them, while they were living in such proximity after so little time, these couples saw each other at their worst almost immediately.
They went through really stressful events like lockdowns together and came out the other side, which has made a lot of them feel like there was nothing they couldn’t face as couples; they had already faced it.
But then the lockdown ended and restrictions started lifting
Now that these restrictions have eased, these couples have entered a new stage in their relationships.
Maybe one of them is going into the office again, and they’re suddenly spending less time together.
Maybe they’re meeting each others’ families or seeing what the other is like in social settings for the first time.
Or perhaps the threat of COVID is still very real for one of them but not the other and their behavior is at odds.
Whatever it is, this new stage causes tension in these relationships that are the same, but suddenly exist in a different environment.
That’s why a lot of these couples are coming to counseling now and saying to me, “Everything was so good but then it all just changed and I don’t know why or what to do about it”.
I don’t think they realise that what they’re going through is widespread at the moment. They can’t identify what’s gone wrong. They just know that things were really good, and then something happened.
That “something” is most likely the relationship being exposed to a phase it’s never had to navigate before. In this transition, these couples may feel like there’s been a shift or disconnect in their alignment or compatibility.
How I recommend working through it
When we were in lockdowns, we had to make decisions quickly, but now we can take our time a bit more.
If this all sounds familiar to you and you’d like to address it, start by having conversations with your partner about how they’ve found your relationship during the pandemic so far.
Now lockdowns have ended, what would you both like to keep that worked well for you? What would you like to do differently?
Your answers might not be the same, and that’s OK. It’s about renegotiating what will work for you both.
Make sure you try to communicate the feelings you have around this honestly, because thinking something but not saying it does your relationship a disservice.
At the end of it, you might find that you’re so connected and feel so compatible that you’re able to work through this stuff and continue your relationship.
But there’s a chance that you only worked well together when you were in your couple bubble and asking these questions might lead you to realise staying together isn’t the best idea.
It’s been so hard for individuals and nations and communities to live through the pandemic, so naturally our intimate relationships have been impacted too.
Have some grace for yourself and your partner as you work through it.
This article contains general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice in relation to your particular circumstances.
Jill Dzadey is a relationship counsellor based in Naarm, Melbourne.
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